For many people, a dream job is one in which they don’t even have to leave the house to do it. It’s no surprise that all of those get rich quick scam ads on TV advertize cushy jobs where you can earn thousands without even leaving the comfort of home. Think about it, no commute, no overbearing boss, and no uptight dress code. Working from home really does sound like the ideal office job, but, wait a minute, it’s not as glamorous as it seems. As someone who’s worked from home for over three years, let me be the first to admit that doing so definitely has its benefits, but also its share of often major disadvantages.
Being the glass half empty type of person that I am, let me first elucidate what I feel are the ten greatest negatives of tele-commuting, aka working at home.
#1) Not on the Clock
Now, this first point varies, depending on the type of work agreement you’ve reached with your employer. In some cases, you’ll punch in and out from your in house job, just as if you were in the office. Whether this is accomplished via VPN into your employer’s office network, or a third-party work hour service, like Odesk, some telecommuters actually are on the clock. However, for the vast majority of freelancers and working homebodies, we’re paid only according to how much we’ve actually accomplished, not how long we’ve been punched in. This can become a problem.
For instance, in your typical office job, or even McJob, you get paid for every hour that you’re on the clock, regardless of how much you actually do. Whether you spend most of the time checking facebook, hiding out in the break room, or working your butt off, is irrelevant in terms of how much of a paycheck you take home (not counting performance-based bonuses of course). Not so with working at home.
#2) Must Account for Everything
When you work at home, you have to justify every charge and every hour on your invoice. This means that time spent at your computer watching YouTube, dozing off, or just being generally unproductive, is time that you will not get paid for (unless you feel comfortable inflating your invoices and have an employer who won’t notice – I’ve never felt comfortable doing this, both from a moral and safety standpoint).
What this then means is that every hour you spend procrastinating, you then have to work up later. For me, it was typical to spend 9 or even 10 hours at the computer, yet only accomplish 5-6 hours of work. Plus, there’s another factor that makes you even more prone to slack off, namely, the fact that you’re at home without any boss peaking over your shoulder!
#3) Too Easy to Slack Off and Procrastinate
In a regular office, you can’t just lay down and take a 2 hour nap without someone noticing. You can’t watch a full DVD, and you definitely can’t play video games. At home though, all these temptations are dangerously close by and you’ll find yourself saying, oh just one hour of Xbox 360, then I’ll get back to work. Or let me just lie down for a little bit, then I’ll be refreshed and able to work more. There will be no boss to tell you no, and every hour you waste on one of these activities is another extra hour that you’ll have to make up later that day. And suddenly, instead of that short and full paying 8 hour day, you’ll find yourself working late into the evening and only getting paid for 6 hours.
Really, for me, this was the most difficult part of working at home, and something that took me a long while to get used to. In a real office, it’s as if you’re forced to use the time you have to be productive, but a home office just doesn’t have the same type of ‘gun to your head’ motivation that a standard office does. It’s more like a home work assignment or college essay, which I could finish right away, or just as easily push off to the very last minute. More often than not, I chose to do the latter. Training yourself to do it right away, does require some effort and practice, at least in my case.
#4) Can get Lonely
Now, this won’t necessarily apply to people with big families, plenty of roommates, or otherwise busy houses. But if you’re living alone, then working at home can get a little lonely. Sure, this might be hard to imagine if you particularly hate a certain annoying coworker. But communicating to people all day solely through instant message or email does get a little isolating after awhile. It also brings me to my next point: communication.
#5) Communication can be Difficult
Alright, with Skype and other dirt cheap VoIP services, this isn’t such a big deal, but I feel that I still need to mention it. Communicating with your boss or employer isn’t as fluid or easy when working from home. In the office, you can easily fire off question after question with no problem, and, the best part, have something personally explained to you if you still don’t understand. By contrast, at home, you’ll often have clients who are super busy and can only communicate through email or instant messaging at best. Some will even be annoyed at excessive questions, just expect you to understand everything from the get-go, and then be angry if you make a mistake. This might sound like typical in-office boss behavior, but, believe me, these problems are only exacerbated by the long distance.
#6) No IT Department
You’ll never appreciate the value of an IT department until you’ve been forced to troubleshoot all your technical issues on your own. At the average office job, you simply sit down at your desk and start up your ultra fast computer with its two large monitors. If something breaks or doesn’t work, it’s not your problem. Just call IT and sit back while they do all the work. Things don’t quite work as nicely when telecommuting from your home office.
At home, if your computer breaks, then you’re out a paycheck and you need to get it working again as fast as possible. The time spent repairing your computer, or paying to get it fixed, is just another chunk taken out of your paycheck again. In my case, my laptop self-destructed and, as I was short on cash at the time, I had to get a tiny 10 inch netbook to do my work on. It was ok, but slow and much less productive than working on a desktop with two displays.
#7) Must meet deadlines
Again, when working as a freelancer or from home, you rarely have the kind of binding contract that most employees do. You usually don’t have the same rights, or recourse to arbitration. Much of what you’ve agreed on, at least in my case, is usually just based on unofficial spoken or written agreement. This means that your employer can fairly easily withhold pay, especially if a job isn’t completed on time or satisfactorily. Where you might only risk getting fired or yelled out in the corporate environment, at home, failure to meet a freelance deadline means you don’t get paid.
#8) No health insurance
As a relatively young and fortunate person, this point hasn’t been a big deal for me, but it does deserve mentioning. Except in certain cases, working at home entails zero benefits. This means you should probably get health insurance on your own, but of course you’ll have to be ready to pay for it. Think of it as yet another cost eating out of your paycheck.
#9) No paid vacation
Again, some work at home people might have actual contracts with their employers that include vacation time, sick pay, benefits and all that, but most don’t. Sure, you can take a vacation any time you want, often at the drop of a hat, but you won’t get paid during this time. Without any paid vacation days, it can often be a lot tougher to take any vacations at all, unless of course you don’t mind a working vacation.
#10) A ton of competition
This final point really ties in more with another article I’ll do dedicated strictly to freelancing. I’m talking about the amount of competition in the freelance market, which is one of the main and easiest ways that people choose to earn money from working at home. When you compete in this labor pool for jobs, you are literally competing against the whole world, which often includes far more qualified people than you who are willing to work for much cheaper. It’s definitely a buyer’s market and, therefore, the quality of work you deliver must be top-notch or else you’ll quickly find yourself replaced. There isn’t any minimum wage in this freelancer world either, which means you’ll often find yourself getting paid less than an office employee to do an identical task. In other words, depending on the field, things can get very cut-throat.
It’s not all bad
If you’ve gotten this far, you might be thinking, damn working at home does suck. I want a cushy office job where I can slack off, get paid my full paycheck and also enjoy benefits. Not so fast, there are of course a bunch of benefits to working at home, otherwise myself and millions of others wouldn’t do it.
Actually, in my next article, I’ll cover all the reasons, in my mind, why working at home can be totally awesome. But, I just wanted to warn people, that home office isn’t necessarily the paradise many have made it out to be and in many cases working at home does suck.